Jean-Jacques Beineix, the French movie director of such classics as ‘Diva’ and ‘Betty Blue’, has died. 
‘Diva’ (1981) and ‘Betty Blue’ (1986) are each brilliant. I see each as a take on people with few means trying to produce art in a hostile world, and with an uncomprehending populace from which you must try to draw your audience.
‘Dive’ is ostensibly a detective-crime-thriller-chase movie, and ‘Betty Blue’ is ostensibly an erotic psychological comedy-drama movie. But each is much more than its superficial genre characterization. These movies created a new look and feel for cinema in France, and by that had a lasting impact on cinema internationally.
In ‘Betty Blue’, the most insane person in the whole bunch is the only one to recognize the value of the work of art the hapless hero has produced. But, she is too out of touch with “normality” to survive in a world that eventually does accept that art as being worthy of commodification (a.k.a., publication).
Can an artist ever produce another masterpiece after he kills off his muse, to end her suffering in the normal world, and also to liberate himself for “normal” living? Can great art be produced by a consistently sane person? The movie ‘Betty Blue’ may seem to leave the answers to those questions ambiguous, but I think that for both Beineix and myself they are clearly: no.
Another wonderful feature of ‘Betty Blue’ is the music, by Gabriel Yared, a jazz-pop fusion that is fabulous, so totally French and so totally refreshing. There are a saxophone solo and an electric piano riff accompanied by harmonica, which are each an eternity of sunshine bathing a lush countryside in the human soul.
When I first saw ‘Betty Blue’, in 1986, it opened up a new feeling/attitude of “freedom” for me, via cinema. Despite the crises and disappointments the characters experience in ‘Betty Blue’ the entire thrust of the movie is motivated by a celebration of life: joie de vivre. And I thought: I could live that way, too.
How many people have been thunderstruck after some apparently trivial incident, to suddenly realize — like Zorg in ‘Betty Blue’ — that the lover they are so bonded to and enraptured with is completely nuts? That has got to be a very sinking feeling. Two of the couples portrayed in ‘Betty Blue’ show varieties of that. And yet, as Samuel Beckett urged, in ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Endgame’, when the situation is hopeless you just go on anyway. You don’t quit.
‘Diva’ is the more comfortable movie, while still being edgy. The aria featured as the keystone of the movie (“Ebben! ne andro lontana” from act one of ‘La Wally’ by Alfredo Catalani, 1893) and sung by African-American soprano Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, is absolutely radiant. (https://youtu.be/2hsmoo97CVA)
But ‘Betty Blue’ is inherently subversive, and in that sense “punk”: the perceptive artistic individual against the dullards of a homogenizing bourgeois world. To be otherwise is to be “nuts.”
Beineix made numerous other movies, none as successful as these two, and one or two being clunkers. But throughout he was a consummate cinema artist, and that is an extremely difficult role to pursue in our too superficial and too commercialized world.
 Jean-Jacques Beineix obituary
16 January 2022